It was with a heavy heart that Luke walked back to his wooden cabin that night in the dark woods of Idyllwild, CA. His friends around him had already started plotting the tactics that they would use in the water balloon war the next day, or what the camp food was doing to their stomachs. Luke, however, quietly made his way back to his bunk bed, got out his pajamas and got ready for bed without the pulsating energy of a 12 year-old boy who knows that he probably won’t have to go to sleep any time soon.
The room looked like a quintessential summer camp cabin, with rows of bunks and bathroom equipping each little shack. Picture Heavyweights, when all the boys are unloading their secret stashes of candied goods on their first day of camp. When you walk in the door you are greeted by a wall of scents so thick and impermeable that you wince your eyes a little, like you would in fog or smoke. Sweat, suntan lotion, mosquito spray, chocolate and a week’s worth of unwashed boy clothes unite in the air and permeate everything.
And the boys. They swing from the bedposts and scuttle across the floors. They jump on each other, dodge each other and wrestle each other. To be bunkmates is akin to being partners on a pirate ship; it is their vessel for the week, and great pride is taken in protecting it and parading atop the wooden beams. It is a week in which they are allowed to be Lost Boys, where time stands still and the 12 year-old warriors within are allowed to rule sovereign beside their mates, their friends.
But Luke, that night, wasn’t a Lost Boy. His thoughts were far away and troubling and very, very adult.
David, the boys’ camp leader and youth pastor, rounded up his scruffy squadron and asked that they make a circle on the floor to talk about the sermon they had heard preached that night. The boys obliged and sat down, still fidgeting and whispering with each other when it happened. Luke’s round cheeks began to twist and shake a little, and his breathing became very heavy and through the nose, as though trying to keep from crying.
Luke fought the tears as long as he could, and when every eye in the room was on him, he burst out loud a very peculiar sentence.
“I…I…. I LOVE LEGOS!!!”
His face, ridden with equal parts guilt and relief that he’d said out loud what had been bothering him all night, looked around at all the faces in the room who had stopped squirming and whispering and were all very focused on their friend.
“I love Legos,” he wailed. “And tonight Pastor Jared was telling us how God wants to use the things that we love for his kingdom and stuff, but I don’t think Legos really count and I don’t know what that means because I want God to use me, but I also really love Legos.”
His face was anguished, as if he knew that at any moment he would be told that he were to never touch a Lego again.
David remained silent. He racked his brain for a nugget from a seminary class, or a verse from the Bible, or a similar experience that he could relate to Luke’s. But he was stumped. Luke’s lament was so simple and yet so complex that over 10 years as a pastor hadn’t prepared him for this confession on the floor of a stinky boy’s cabin in the middle of the woods.
A small voice spoke up from the circle and David watched as magic unwove before his eyes.
“Luke, wait! I have an idea! You can design Lego stop-animation films that tell stories about Jesus! I’ve seen some and they are really cool.”
Another boy, emboldened by the first, chimed in, “Luke, have you ever been to Legoland?”
“Yea…” Luke conceded, through a snuffle.
“Well, what if you could work at Legoland one day, and you could tell all the other people that you work with about Jesus, and you could be really, really nice to all the kids that go there to visit Legoland, and Jesus can use you there too.”
David remained silent, listening to the chorus of encouragement around him. The boys continued to spin a web of excitement and hope large and genuine enough to lift Luke out of the despair that had enveloped him for the night.
Luke slept soundly that night, clinging dearly to his still intact love of Legos, his comrades by his side, and for the first time, a glimpse of his place in the Kingdom.
[Thanks to Amy Smith for using your gift of writing to help us tell this story. We love you tons.]